The Zhejiang Wuju Opera Troupe in east China staged a spectacular show in Beijing over the week-end. Titled "The Tragedy of Wujiang", the production was mounted at the Grand Theater of Cultural Palace of Nationalities. The poignant tragedy made a sensation.
The Zhejiang Wuju Opera Troupe in east China staged a spectacular show in Beijing over the week-end.
More than a hundred and forty years ago, the movement of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom swept across the southern half of China, threatening the rule of the Qing regime in Beijing. Li Shixian emerged as a major military leader of the movement, which had began to decline because of a series of strategic blunders. Faced with an inevitable defeat, the noble-minded general decided to go down with the cause.
His army, garrisoned the city of Jinhua, bore the brunt of the increasingly fierce attacks of the imperial troops, who were equipped with advanced firearms.
The Tragedy of Wujiang also followed the tragic love between the general and a local lady, who willingly sacrificed her life for the Heavenly Kingdom.
Playwright Jiang Chaogao said, "The production's theme song has two lines going like this. The Heavenly Kingdom is fighting for the people, but why are the people against our cause? It posed an inevitable question as to the nature of the peasant uprising."
Wuju Opera originated in the city of Jinhua. It is known for its perfect integration of singing, dancing, and performing. Chen Meilan, the show's female lead, is a renowned exponent of the style. In the story, she played the general's lady friend. In portraying the beautiful warrior of high ambition, she employed the most typical techniques of a Wuju Opera performer. And the role has given ample room for interpretation and experimentation.
Titled "The Tragedy of Wujiang", the production was mounted at the Grand Theater of Cultural Palace of Nationalities.
Wuju opera performer Chen Meilan said, "There's no stylization in the show. We completely dispense with it. The character is presented through a combination of different role types in our tradition."
The show is also distinguished by its technical innovation. Borrowing the revolving stage technique from other stage arts, the production successfully unified the time and space and achieved an all-around presentation of the historical event over a century ago.
Wuju Opera is the second important local opera in Zhejiang province. It took its present shape about four hundred years ago. The music came from local folk melodies. Through the centuries, most Wuju shows were staged at outdoor venues, which contributes to the expansiveness of its style. Currently there are eleven troupes of Wuju Opera in East China.